Thoughts on economics and liberty

Reports of total integrity and honesty of the people in ancient India #3: Hueng Tsang (Hiuen Tsang/ Hsuan-tsang/ Xuan Tsang or Xuanzang)

Once again, there is independent evidence to confirm that the people of ancient India were very honest.

By 630 AD, however, things in India were not as good as they had earlier been, as we’ll see from this short snippet:

Hiuen Tsang praised emperor Harsha and his administration very much.

He described that the kingdom was well-governed; it was- free from revolts; there were a few cases of law-breaking.

He, however, described that travelling was not very much safe at that time.


He described Indians as hot tempered but honest. [Source]


“With respect to the ordinary people, although they are naturally quick-tempered, yet they will not take anything wrongly and they yield more than justice requires. In money matters they are without craft, and in administering justice they are considerate. They dread the retribution of another state of existence and make light of the things of the present world. They are not deceitful or treacherous in their conduct, and are faithful to their oaths and promises. In their rules of government there is remarkable rectitude, while in their behaviour there is much gentleness and sweetness.” [Source]

The system of justice was pretty strong, from the following description [Source]

The law of the state is sometimes violated by base persons, and plots are made against the ruler. When the matter has been fully sifted, the offenders are imprisoned for life. There is no infliction of corporal punishment; they are simply left to live or die, and are not counted among men. When the rules of propriety or justice are violated, or when a man fails in loyalty or filial piety, they cut off his nose or his ears, or his hands and feet, or expel him from the country, or drive him out into the desert wilds. For other faults, except these, a small payment of money will commute the punishment. In the investigation of criminal cases there is no use of rod or staff to obtain proofs (of guilt). In questioning an accused person, if he replies with frankness, the punishment is proportioned accordingly; but if the accused obstinately denies his fault, or in spite of it attempts to excuse himself, then in searching out the truth to the bottom, when it is necessary to pass sentence, there are four kinds of ordeal used – ordeal by water, by fire, by weighing, and by poison.

When the ordeal is by water, the accused is placed in a sack connected with a stone vessel and thrown into deep water. They then judge of his innocence or guilt in this way – if the man sinks and the stone floats, he is guilty; but if the man floats and the stone sinks, he is pronounced innocent.

Secondly, by fire. They heat some iron and make the accused kneel on it and then tread on it, and apply it to the palms of his hands; moreover, he is made to

pass his tongue over it; if no scars result, he is innocent; if there are scars, his guilt is proved. In the case of timid and weak persons who cannot endure such a horrible ordeal, they take a flower-bud and cast it toward the fire; if it opens, he is innocent; if the flower is burned, he is guilty.

Ordeal by weight is this: A man and a stone are placed in a balance evenly, then they judge according to lightness or weight. If the accused is innocent, then the man weighs down the stone, which rises in the balance; if he is guilty, the man rises and the stone falls.

Ordeal by poison is this: They take a ram, cut off its right hind leg, and put poison upon the portion of flesh that is assigned to the accused to eat; if the man is guilty, the poison takes effect and he dies; if the man is innocent, the poison has no effect and he survives.

There are nine methods of showing outward respect: first, by greeting with a kind inquiry; second, by bowing the head reverently; third, by raising the hands with an inclination of the body; fourth, by bowing with the hands folded on the breast; fifth, by bending the knee; sixth, by an obeisance; seventh, by going clown upon the ground on one’s hands and knees; eighth, by going down upon the ground with the knees, elbows, and forehead; ninth, by prostrating oneself upon the earth. Of these nine methods the most respectful is to make one prostration on the ground and then to kneel and laud the virtues of the one addressed. When at a distance, it is usual to bow low; when near,

Sanjeev Sabhlok

View more posts from this author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *